The two basic methods of growing garden tomatoes are indeterminate and determinate.
Indeterminate means you allow the vines to ramble along the ground. The ideal space between tomato plants for indeterminate growing is four to six feet apart.
Of the two methods, it's easy to see that determinate growing makes your tomato plants easier to manage. Determinate growing means that you hold the tomato plant upright by staking the vine, enclosing it in a tomato cage, or training your tomato plant to grow along a trellis.
There are many advantages to determinate growing. Your plants stay cleaner, take up less space in your garden, are easier to cultivate and vines are distanced from wet soil that can cause many tomato problems. Because tomato plants are a favorite victim of insect pests and plant viruses, determinate growing also helps keep tomato pests and diseases in check. Staking or enclosing your plant helps prevent the plant from falling over when it is heavy with fruit and also helps prevent heavy vines from breaking. When using stakes or cages, tomato plants may be planted closer together, from 1 ½ to 2-feet apart in rows three to four feet apart.
Plant tomato transplants into your garden after all danger of frost has passed. As a rule of thumb, when the trees in your neighborhood are filling up with leaves, it's a good indicator that your tomato plants are ready to be transplanted into your garden. Before transplanting your tomato seedlings, enrich the soil with some rotted manure or nutrient rich compost. Then plant your tomato seedlings in a place that gets a lot of sun. Tomatoes require at least eight hours of sun each day.
Tomatoes are heavy feeders, susceptible to many diseases, and often victimized by many garden pests. Allow some distance between your tomatoes and other plants. Giving your tomato garden its own space encourages robust growth and helps keep garden pests and diseases away from your plants.
Deep planting of tomato seedlings allows them to generate a better root system, resulting in an over-all stronger tomato plant. Plant as much of your tomato seedling underground as possible. Pinch off the bottom leaves to gain more stem to plant underground. The more stem you plant, the better root system your plant will generate and the stronger it will be.
Mulching around your tomato plants prevents them from coming into contact with wet soil, reduces the risk of diseases and helps control invasive weeds. Even so, be sure to keep mulch about one inch away from the tomato stem or your tomato may "damp off", causing you new tomato growing problems.
If you use stakes, be sure to add them to your vegetable garden at the same time you transplant the plants to avoid disturbing the roots. As your plants grow, use twine to tie your plants to the stakes.
One tomato planting alternative is to plant a large transplant horizontally instead of vertically. Your transplant will need to have branches at least four inches long. Cut off any stems that will be buried as well as any that are less than four inches long. Dig a shallow trench, just enough to cover the main stem. Place your transplant into the trench, cover it, and let your tomato "lay down on the job!"
Even if you live in a small space, enjoy fresh produce with tomato container gardening. Although a tomato garden in a container may be small, it can still produce high quality fruit.
Although, tomatoes are most commonly grown directly in the vegetable garden, growing small varieties in containers or hanging baskets makes a colorful decoration. Tomato vines can be trellised and add an attractive display to porch, deck, or patio. Additionally, keeping these ruby-red gems close by the kitchen is very convenient for the cook!
Another advantage of growing tomatoes in containers is that your plants will be removed from pests and pathogens. You also control the fertilization needs of your container grown tomato, thus enabling you to add a companion plant or two to a larger container. Grow a tomato plant with a basil plant, a parsley plant and pepper plant for a wonderful start (or finish) to a salad!
When tomato seedlings grow a second set of leaves, it's time to transplant them into their permanent home. Small varieties like cherry tomatoes need a container that holds two to three pounds of potting mixture, while larger varieties need five to seven pounds of potting mixture for healthy tomato growing. Use larger receptacles like half-barrels to grow larger varieties of tomatoes in containers. Plant just one tomato plant per pot or bucket. Be sure that your container has holes in the bottom for drainage. Before you add soil to your pot, place rocks in the bottom for drainage. Then pot your tomato plant and watch it grow!